Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Alphabet, 2006, Part 1 (A-E)

In October, 2006, I bought my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix L3, just to see if I liked the process.  Long story short, I liked it so well, that for Christmas, I bought my first digital single-lens-reflex camera, a Nikon D80--at that point pretty much state of the art.  I also joined an on-line photography group, The Photographer's Workshop, which allowed members to post one photo a day for the group's enjoyment.  Something gave me the idea to work my way through the alphabet, and I started out with A is for Apple.  Every day I would post a new photo, but it wasn't until I got to L that someone actually caught on and asked if I were going through the alphabet.  When I concurred that I was doing exactly that, they started asking, "What are you going to do for X?"  I replied, "You'll just have to wait and see.

Well, it's been over eight years, and I just got a new camera, a Nikon D7100.  I've had it less than a week now, and I absolutely love it.  Figured it was time to challenge myself again, and so come up with a new alphabet.  But first, I'd like to share the 2006 work with my blog readers.  This will be the topic for the next five or six posts, so hang on and let's get going.  By the way, I put the whole work together in a self published book.  Unless otherwise indicated, what follows are the pictures and texts from that book.  Also, with this "edition," I've added the photographic information.  Unless otherwise noted, all images were shot in JPEG format, and finished in Photoshop Elements.  Clicking on a picture will open it full screen in a new window.

A is for Apple

Taken October 26th, 2006, in Smith River, California, using a Nikon Coolpix L3.  Focal length is 19.2 mm, ISO 50, f /5.3, 1/60 second. 

There are four apple trees in the back yard at 344 Brookings Avenue, Smith River, California.  They start producing edible apples in August, and I continued to pick apples off the trees into December.  One of the trees is a Gravenstein.  I have no idea what the other three are.  Mother always made applesauce, but I prefer making pies, juice, or just eating them.

B is for Berry

Taken November 8th, 2006, using a Nikon Coolpix L3.  Focal length is 19.2 mm, ISO 50, f /5.3, 1/100 second.  

Wild Blackberry vines, which the locals call Himalayas, grow everywhere [in the Smith River area].  They're a weed, in fact, but I still like to put them on my Cheerios, or make a pie or even ice cream with them.  The picture above is of unripe, or "green," blackberries and was taken in November 2006.  I was intrigued by the fact that the leaves were turning with the season, but the new berries kept coming on.

C is for Cactus

Taken November 22nd, 2006, using a Nikon Coolpix L3.  Focal length is 19.2 mm, ISO 50, f /11, 1/60 second.

Mother had three "Christmas Cactus" plants growing behind her kitchen sink.  I'd never really paid much attention to this type of plant, although I've always liked them.  The bloom shown here began to open Thanksgiving week, and was at its full glory on November 25th, the day Momma died.

 D is for Darlingtonia

Both pictures taken September 4th, 2006, in the hills above Smith River, California, using a Pentax Single-Lens-Reflex film camera.  No other information available.

These peculiar insect-eating plants grow in a relatively restricted area in northern California and southern Oregon near the coast.  Usually they grow in dark boggy areas, and there is a botanical wayside on US 199 just east of Gasquet, California.  The ones pictured here, however, were growing on a wet rock cliff above the South Fork of the Smith River, about 14 miles off US 199.  Notice how they're sticking their tongues out.  I submitted both of these pictures to the Workshop, albeit at different times.

E is for Elk
(And yes, I know the proper term is Wapiti.)

Taken November 25, 2006 in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks, using a Pentax Single-Lens-Reflex Film Camera.  No other information available.

There are herds of Roosevelt Elk all along the north coast, including just south of the town of Smith River.  The most visible herds, however, are the ones in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  They are often found alongside US 101 in the park, and are considered a highway traffic hazard.  They can also be found on the beach at Gold Bluffs and Fern Canyon in the park.  It's rather disconcerting to be walking through the beach grasses and suddenly find yourself face to face with a bull elk.

More elk

Both pictures taken November 25th, 2006, in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, using a Nikon Coolpix L3 camera.  Focal length 19.2 mm, ISO 63, f /5.3, 1/30 second.

Come back on Friday for F through I.  And feel free to leave comments here on the blog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bridges Over Untroubled Waters

2 foot by 8 foot panorama of the Flathead River 
West of Perma, Montana
February 17th, 2015

Sail on silvergirl,  Sail on by.
Your time has come to shine.
All your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine.
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind.
     --Paul Simon

To hear the Concert in Central Park version of this classic, click here. To buy it, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Anyone who follows my rants on Facebook knows that I've finally replaced my venerable, trusty, over eight years old Nikon D80 digital single lens reflex camera.  I ordered the new camera last week from 42nd Street Camera in New York, and yesterday, UPS delivered it.  I purchased a new Nikon, a D7100, with 24 megapixels and more bells and whistles than you can shake the proverbial stick at.  I'm still learning the tricks of my D80 after all these years, so I can only hope to gain some sort of familiarity with the D7100 in time.  To that end, I'm out taking pictures every chance I get.  This blog will be unlike other posts I've written, in that I promise to keep the words to a minimum and share some of the 81 photos I've taken in the 28 hours I've had the new toy, er tool.  Please remember to click on each photo to see it full screen.

My double hibiscus blooming in the window
Plains, Montana
February 16th, 2015

I set out today hoping to find some birds.  I really want to see what the increase in megapixels can do for my avian shots.  Of course, the true test is if the camera operator can figure out how to take great shots, but the birds were few and far between, so I settled on another of my favorite subjects, bridges.  Edward T. Hall, in his study The Dance of Life, talks about working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on a project to build a bridge on the jointly administered Hopi/Navajo lands in Arizona.  Long story short, he came to the realization that a bridge is an instrument of time.  When you consider how much time it would take you to cross a canyon, or a stream, or a river without the convenience of a bridge, you'll understand what he means.  If you're interested in his look at time, I've put a link at the bottom so you can buy the book and read it yourself.   As for me, I just like the look of classic bridges, especially railway bridges.  So I shot a few, even catching one with a train.

Christmas Cactus Blooming for Valentine's Day
Shot through a Kaleidoscope Lens
February 17th, 2015

That's it, that's all she wrote--or at least all I'm going to write today.  Here's a few more photos from the new equipment.  Hope you enjoy.

 Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Coal Train crossing the Flathead River Bridge
West of Perma, Montana
February 17th, 2015

The Flathead River Along MT Highway 200
West of Perma, Montana
February 17th, 2015

Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Rail Bridge over the Clark Fork River
South of Paradise, Montana
February 17th, 2015

Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Rail Bridge over the Clark Fork River
North of St. Regis, Montana
February 17th, 2015

Mount Baldy, Highest Mountain in our Neighborhood (7500 feet)
Wishing you all a very happy Valentine's Day, a few days late
Between Plains and Hot Springs, Montana
February 16th, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Even more adventures in HDR and other work

It's so nice when all the kids fit in the frame and look at the camera
Out the front door
February 13th, 2015

In anticipation of the arrival of my new Nikon D7100, I've gone back to working on my own skills, trying to make myself worthy of my new toy/tool.  Primarily, I'm getting out almost every day, camera in hand, hoping to learn from my own mistakes, and then using the advice of others to improve my work.  The shot above, for example, came as a result of lots of photos I've taken of deer in the yard, usually when it's too early to get a good light on the scene.  To get this photo, I used a tripod, increased the ISO to 400 (when I normally use 125), and put on a telephoto lens (my old Sigma 70-300 lens) set at 170mm.  I posted this photo in the Expert Photography Action Takers group on Facebook, and got several very positive comments, but one suggestion that I should use the "Pet Eye Removal Tool" to get rid of the unnatural shine in the eyes.  Well, the version of Photoshop I have (CS5) does not have a "Pet Eye Removal Tool," but using Google, I found several ways to "fix" the eyes, and the version above shows the image after I "doctored" the eyes in Photoshop.  It's not an easy fix when you have 8 eyes looking at you, but it can be done.  If I wanted to take the time, there's more work I could do here, but I'm happy with the result as is.  Especially at this resolution.  Blow it up and let me know what you think.

Yesterday, Kevin had an Emergency Services meeting in Thompson Falls, so I rode along, then took the truck up Blue Slide Road to take some pictures and find some geocaches while he was in his meeting.  Turning off Montana Highway 200 just west of town, I drove up Blue Slide Road then took the cross road to the bridge at Birdland Bay.  There's a geocache hidden on the bridge, or so they say, but I didn't find it.  Due mostly to my own vertigo, I found standing at the side of the bridge, looking down into the water while feeling along the bridge supports for a hidden magnetic key holder, just upset my system no end.  That plus the fear of dropping my new Garmin 650t into the water, and I gave up.  It wasn't worth it.  But the area is very photogenic, so I grabbed the camera and tripod and starting snapping away.  The picture below shows the bridge in all its glory, as a composite three bracketed shots merged together using Photoshop's HDR merge feature.

Birdland Bay Road Bridge over the Clark Fork River
West of Thompson Falls, Montana
February 12th, 2015

Once I had my fill of photography, I set off to find caches along Blue Slide Road.  This is the original U.S. Highway 10 Alternate which runs on the north side of the river from Thompson Falls to just past Trout Creek.  I was on a time schedule, as I needed to get back to pick up Kevin without making him wait, so rather than drive all the way to Trout Creek, I went as far as Cougar Peak Road, near where our friends Mike and Norm lived when they first moved to Montana from Memphis.  My GPS was not cooperating well, refusing to go into portrait mode, and in landscape mode, the last word on the cache description was partially hidden.  It told me that the cache was hidden in the "sign..." which I read as signal, even though there was nothing remotely like a signal around.  When I was finally able to get the orientation changed to landscape, I learned that the hidden word was "signage," which made a lot more sense, and sure enough there was the cache.  Score one No, one Yes and on to the next.

The next actually meant turning back toward Thompson Falls and stopping at Graves Creek Road.  That cache was very easily found, as was the one just a few hundred feet on down the road at Steep River Ranch Road.   The last cache I looked for was titled "Squaw Creek," but in all the times I've driven Blue Slide Road, I've never seen a Squaw Creek.  I know it's not politically correct to use the word Squaw, and I'm sure that's why the highway sign no longer calls the stream that.  Instead there is a sign I've always wondered at, telling all that cross the bridge that they are at "Squaylth-Kwum."  I leave it to my Salish speaking friends to tell me what that means, if anything.

Pat's Knob at Twilight in HDR
Plains, Montana
February 11th, 2015

On Wednesday I stayed home all day, fighting a head ache and mild nausea, but did take advantage of our beautiful location to go out on the deck and shoot some pixels.  The scene above is an HDR composite shot of Pat's Knob, the second highest peak in the Coeur d'Alene range, across the valley from us.  I feel the need to point out that the Coeur d'Alene range is the group of mountains, part of the Bitterroot Mountains, that separates our part of Montana from northern Idaho.  The mountains behind us, and in whose foothills we live, are the Cabinet Mountains.  The highest peak in our area is Baldy (and the road from which our driveway leads is Baldy View), but Baldy is in the Cabinets, not the Coeur d'Alenes.   To get that vintage post card look, I used a program called Photomatix to merge the three exposures and then "tone-map" the image.  I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, even though it's not at all in keeping with modern photographic standards.  But it does look like a post card from the 40s or 50s, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday Kevin was in Missoula all day for a meeting sponsored by the Montana Department of Public Instruction on how to keep your schools safe from terrorist attack.  I can't quite picture Al Qaeda operating a cell in Sanders County, but you never know.  Kevin said that every school in Sanders County was represented at the meeting.  I took advantage of him going into town to spend the day sight seeing, eating good bread from Le Petit Outre bakery and good raw fish at Asahi, and trying not to fall asleep in the comfy chair at Barnes and Noble.  I did pick up a couple of books while at the latter, one a very readable guide to the Nikon D7100 written by a photographer who spends part of the year in Montana, and also  The HDR Book by Rafael "RC" Concepcion.  Kevin was a bit taken aback when I told him that latter book cost $45, but that's what happens in the arts--and believe me, this kind of photography is definitely an art form.  I'm working my way through the book and its accompanying website, which is what led to the two HDR images above (and the one immediately below).

Maclay Bridge over the Bitterroot River
Missoula, Montana
February 10th, 2015

After my sashimi bento box at Asahi, I stopped at Goodwill and found a small, but serviceable, covered clay baking dish, and then I headed out to Blue Mountain to try for some good scenery shots.  The road up Blue Mountain was ice covered, so I turned around and went to Maclay Flats instead.  I got some interesting shots there, but I was most pleased with the shots I took at Maclay Bridge, the one-lane bridge crossing the Bitterroot River on the western edge of Missoula.  The image above is, once more, a composite of six exposures merged and tone-mapped in Photomatix.  Not realistic at all, but I really like the way it turned out.  By all means click on the image and view it full screen and see if you don't find it intriguing.  Looks like something a painter from the Impressionist School would come up with, should Monet have visited Missoula.  At least that's what it looks like to me.

And that clay baking dish I bought?  Well yesterday, I took some sweet pizza dough I had in the fridge, formed it into a round loaf, and let it rise a bit before baking it in the new dish.  Here's how it turned out.  Not bad for a first attempt, but I'm going to have to try with fresh dough and see what happens then.  The "oven spring" was so successful with this dough that the bread actually reached the clay lid and stuck to it in one place.  Unfortunately, the bread didn't bake all the way through and there was a dough pocket in the center.  Guess 1 hour at 400 degrees just wasn't enough inside that little baking dish.  What did bake tasted pretty good though.

Sweet Pizza Dough baked as a loaf in a covered clay baking dish
Plains, Montana
February 12th, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Good-bye to the Thirty Foot Trailer

The Thirty-Foot Trailer
Sandpoint, Idaho
Goodbye to the tent and the old caravan
To the Tinker, the Gypsy, the Travelin' Man
And goodbye to the thirty-foot trailer
    --Ewan McColl
To hear Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger sing this ballad, click here.

When we bought the new house in 2012, Kevin decided he absolutely had to have a tractor, so he searched and searched and found one in Spokane, Washington which he bought.  Now when you buy something 150 miles away, you have to get it home somehow.  And a tractor isn't something that you're going to want to drive all the way from Spokane, Washington to Wild Horse Plains, Montana.  No, you're going to want to put it on a trailer and bring it home behind the trusty F350 diesel.  Goes without saying.  And since you'll probably want to be able to transport the thing around the countryside, you'll probably want to own the trailer as well.  So sure enough, not only did we now own a beautiful red F350 diesel pickup, but a Big Bubba flatbed trailer and what I came to call Kevin's Tonka Toy.

Kevin's Tonka Toy
at home
October 18, 2012

I know Kevin plowed our driveway at least a couple times with his Tonka Toy, and we moved my '48 Frazer, and both Triumphs from Missoula to Plains on the bed of the trailer, but it wasn't long before Kevin realized that the big Cat was really overkill for our needs, so he sold it to a farmer from the Golden Triangle area of central Montana, and got a removable blade installed on the front of the F350, and that's what we've used for plowing ever since.

We kept the trailer though, partly with the thought that when (not IF) I get the Frazer running properly, we could use the trailer to haul the car around to shows throughout the Northwest.  But it's now over two years later, and the trailer has just been sitting in the driveway all this time, and frankly, it's so high that I'm afraid of loading and unloading the Frazer (which still isn't running properly).  So Kevin decided we really didn't need the trailer after all.  Now we've sold a lot of stuff through Craig's List--that's how we got rid of the Tonka Toy, after all, and my F250 and camper, for that matter.  But the trailer, while it garnered a lot of interest, it was only this week that someone finally got interested enough to actually buy the thing.  So yesterday morning, Kevin hooked up the trailer and we took off for Sandpoint, Idaho where we would meet the new owner who comes from near the Canadian Border north of Bonner's Ferry.

The Eastern End of Lake Pend Oreille
Largest Lake in Idaho
Near Hope, Idaho
February 5th, 2015

Now I don't go anywhere without my camera at hand, so even though it was raining hard, the camera and a couple of lenses went into my travel bag, along with the tripod and my GPS unit.  The weather, however, wasn't terribly conducive to good photography, so the camera stayed in the bag until we got to Sandpoint and parked the trailer.  It was at that point that I noticed that the lens I use for 95%+ of my photography was not on the camera.  Nor was it in the bag.  No, it was home on the organ bench where I'd placed it when I was playing with a variety of lenses, shooting out the picture window.  No biggie, you might think, except that the lens I usually use allows for wide angle photography, and the ones I had with me were telephoto lenses.  Thus I couldn't get a decent picture of the trailer in all its glory, because I had to back half-way across the parking lot just to get the trailer in the frame.  This is why I'll never be a professional photographer.  I forget to check the essentials before leaving home.

In Sandpoint we had lunch with our friend Doug Jones, then started back home.  I hadn't asked Kevin to stop on the way west as I knew we were on a time schedule, having agreed to meet the buyer at a specified time.  Besides, the conditions just weren't very good.  On the way home, however, I did attempt a few shots, including the view of the lake above.  Not a lot of contrast due to the cloudy, rainy conditions, but I loved the patterns of the snow on the rock face of the mountains across the lake.  I also pulled out the GPS unit once we got to Clark Fork, and we did stop for one cache, but alas, I kept going in circles, and didn't find the hidden treasure--leaving it for another, sunnier, warmer day.

Studebaker 2R Pickup (1949-1953?)
Near Noxon, Montana
February 5th, 2015

There were three scenes I wanted to capture once we were back in Montana, including a beautiful old barn near Heron, an early 1950s Studebaker pickup near Noxon, and a 1955 Dodge near Thompson Falls.  Kevin obligingly stopped for all three, and I'm happy with both the pickup and the Dodge, but I'll go back to Heron to capture that barn on a sunnier day.  All told it was a fun day, if not terribly productive.  But we were able to say good-bye to the thirty foot trailer.

1955 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer
Near Thompson Falls, Montana
February 5th, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

More Adventures in HDR and other Photographic Games

The view out our living room window
February 2nd, 2015

I've gotten back to playing with my camera.  Several years ago, I was introduced to HDR  (High Dynamic Range) photography, and I tried it with mixed success.  I even wrote a blog post about it back in 2009 which you can read here, if you wish.  But eventually, I tired of the procedures involved and put them aside.  This past week, the sun was shining brightly here at home, and it was the last day of January, so I decided I should get out of the house and get some good landscapes--oh and while I was at it, find a few more geocaches.  Loading up my Garmin Montana 650t with caches from west of Thompson Falls to Clark Fork, Idaho, on both sides of the river, I jumped in the car with GPS, camera, a change of lenses, and tripod, and took off down the road.  I had gone just over a mile when I met Kevin coming home.  When he asked what I was up to, and I told him, he asked if I would like him to come along.  Well, duh.  Yes, I always enjoy his company on the road.

On the way to Thompson Falls, I asked Kevin to pull over, and I took a few pictures of Badrock Canyon.  This is the narrowest part of the Clark Fork Canyon between here and Idaho, and if you know where to look, you can see the marks left by the rush of Glacial Lake Missoula, as it poured down this canyon and across Idaho to scrub the landscape of eastern Washington.  The amount of water, and the speed with which it flowed left marks on the rock sides of the canyon that enable scientists to estimate just how much water went through here.  They say that the water came through the canyon at 9.46 cubic miles per hour, or 60 times the flow of today's largest river, the Amazon.  

Badrock Panorama
January 31st, 2015

While taking a few pictures, I noted an electric pole right in the middle of my shot.  I adjusted my stance, and took two pictures, one with the pole on the right, and one with it on the left.  I knew it was possible to "stitch" photos together to make a panoramic image, but I'd never done it with my DSLR. Back in the truck, I noted that our blue sky was disappearing as we headed west.  It was also quite cold and windy.  Not a good prognosis for more picture taking.

Long story short, we continued on west, eventually stopping just a few miles east of Trout Creek.  I grabbed ten new geocaches along the way, but the weather really wasn't cooperating, and I had hit some button on my GPS that stopped it from giving me the information I wanted.  In frustration, I suggested that we return home, and that's what we did, stopping at Simple Simon's in Thompson Falls for a pizza dinner.

Back at my desk, I transferred the images from my camera's memory card to my hard drive, and opened up Photoshop.  It turns out that in CS5, it's very easy to make a "stitched" panorama.  I was amazed.  I had expected to have a great deal of trouble making such an image, but the computer did almost all the work and I ended up with the Badrock Panorama posted above.  If printed at its normal resolution, that image would measure 1 foot tall by 40 inches wide.  I've found a new way to play!  By the way, the image at the top of the page, if printed at full resolution, would measure 1 foot tall by five feet wide!  And I created another image that would actually print out nine feet wide, if I really wanted to do such a thing.

Self Portrait in HDR
February 1st, 2015

The simplicity that CS5 made of "stitching" together panoramic shots, made me take another look at HDR images.  Accordingly, I set up the tripod in the living room and took three bracketed self-portraits, which I combined to create an HDR photo of my face--with every possible line and wrinkle in plain view.  I posted this image on Facebook, and one of my artist friends commented that she'd really like to take that portrait and copy it in oil.  I've never had someone want to paint my portrait before.  I'm tempted to let her.

The next day, I tried the self portrait again.  This time, I did not sit in my recliner, which left me back-lit by the picture window, but rather moved to the couch which faces the window.  Unfortunately, I did not move the chair from the background, so I ended up with Mickey Mouse ears, but I like the portrait so much that I made it my new Facebook profile pic.  Another FB friend suggested that the picture looked like someone had taken a black and white and hand colored it.  I'll let you decide.  Just for comparison, I'm including the same photograph processed as a single image so you can see the difference between a "normal" photo and a three-layered HDR shot.

Second Self Portrait in HDR
February 2nd, 2015

I've also tried some HDR shots through the window, looking at the trees and the deer in the fog.  They have an interesting look, but when I take the image and process it as I normally would, I think I prefer the non HDR version.  In any event, I've certainly found a new way to occupy my behind the camera time, and I look forward to more sunny days along the river and lake.

Self Portrait as a "Normal" Photograph
Don't you like the HDR version better?
February 2nd, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

Retirement Blues

Fog in the trees
January 30th, 2015

I like to say that being retired means that I have no one to answer to for the way I spend my time.  But of course, this isn't strictly speaking true.  Ultimately I have to answer to myself.  I set myself some goals, just to make sure I don't sit around all day and get nothing accomplished, but lately, all that seems to do is make me depressed.  For instance, I wanted to make sure I had something new to say every Tuesday and Friday in this blog.  That hasn't happened for a couple of weeks.  So I ask myself, if I don't really have anything to say, isn't it best just to shut up?

I promised myself that I would work on my photography every day, but even there I sometimes find that I'll take one more picture of the trees outside the house, just so I can say I kept my promise by clicking the shutter.  This isn't helping me learn anything new, nor is it improving my skills.  It's just one more set of pixels, or mega-pixels, on a memory card.

The Moon in late afternoon
January 29th, 2015

Finally, I said I would get back to weaving and do at least one project a month.  There's the makings of a lovely project on my main loom, but it's moving very slowly, and I'm having a hard time motivating myself to actually sit at the loom and work.  I know that once the loom is completely dressed and ready for me to weave, the weaving itself will go quickly and provide its own motivation.  But I'm not there yet.  Today, just so that I could say I had actually completed a project in January, I grabbed the first loom I ever had, and also some yarn.  I'm not particularly proud of the open weave mug rug I made, but hey, it's a weaving project, and it did give me a somewhat jaded sense of accomplishment.

My first loom
(As a child, I used sock yarn loops to make pot holders)
January 30th, 2015

The one thing I have been keeping up is my reading.  I set a goal to read seventy-five books in 2015, and so far I've completed twelve.   That means that I'm almost a whole month ahead of myself.  But reading has always been my first love.  I have no doubt that I'll easily read seventy-five books this year, so I've added a challenge to myself, one suggested by my dear friend Vaun Stevens.  I'm doing the Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, so at least twenty-four of those books won't be the light and frivolous mysteries I can read in one day.  One of the suggested challenges is to read a book of poetry, so at present I'm reading Guillaume Appolinaire's Alcools which collection contains my all-time favorite poem, Le Pont Mirabeau.  I should finish the collection on or before February 1st, then it will be on to something else.  Who knows what just yet.

Green wool mug rug being taken off the loom
January 30th, 2015

But I know I have to stop being so hard on myself.  Just go with the flow and what gets done, gets done.  What doesn't, doesn't matter.  There's always tomorrow--at least until there isn't.  And tonight!  Ah, tonight!  I'm going to the Llano Theater to see Into the Woods with Meryl Streep as the witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.  (After all, all good fairy tales take you into the woods where you usually have to deal with either a witch or a wolf, right?)

The completed mug rug
January 30th, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Dog in the Life

In my last post, I used a weaving term, "dog on the loom," and mentioned how I felt that was demeaning to dogs.  Dogs have been a part of my life almost from the beginning.  I can't really imagine not having dogs around, although there are times when I claim that life would be easier without them.  Easier, perhaps, but not nearly as fulfilling.

Dinah, the Ur-MinPin with Me on my Skates
Early 1950s, Laurel, Montana

When I was a small child, my parents decided that every boy should have a dog.  For some reason they headed over to the Paradise Valley south of Livingston and picked up a small black dog that had just been weaned.  I do not remember any time without Dinah in my early life, but apparently I was old enough to talk as the story I grew up with is that my parents asked me to name the pup and I said "Dinah."  I guess someone else in our acquaintance had a black dog with that name.  Dinah curled up on the floor at my mother's feet and rode the 100+ miles home to Laurel without any complaint.  That did it.  She was not my dog, but my mothers from that point on.

Dinah was a fierce protector though.  The thing about Miniature Pinschers is that they have absolutely no idea how small they really are.  Bred originally as ratters, they can be absolutely fearless.  Dinah would take on any dog that dared to come near our home, and once, on top of Skalkaho Pass, she took on a bear.  Mother thought we'd lost the dog at that point, but no, the bear took off for the tall timber rather than face such a concentrated bundle of fury.

She lived for fifteen years, and when she died, Mother said "No more.  I can't take it."  That was in the mid 1960s.  In 1969, after a month in Montana with my friend John, I returned with Hans, a purebred Keeshond, in the car.  Mother took one look at Hans and said, "That's a nice dog you have, John."  When John replied, "He's not my dog, Mrs. Spellman," Mother came back with "Oh yes he is, John, because he's not ours."  But, sure enough, I moved into an apartment in Berkeley, and Hans stayed with my parents.  When I moved to Montana, I wanted to bring Hans with me, but Mother said no.  "He's my dog!"

Gotta Love the Hair
Sandra Stedinger, Me, and Yazzie
Cross Country Skiing at Chief Joseph Pass, Montana
Winter 1976

Living in Montana, in a log cabin in the woods, I had to have a dog, and since Hans was still in California with Mother, Animal Control in Missoula furnished me with a Cairn Terrier with the very un-Scottish name of Yazzie.  Yazzie might have had a Navajo name (Yazzie means little in the DinĂ© language), but he was a true Scotsman, er dog.  Whenever we would march with the Scottish Heritage Society in various parades, Yazzie would walk along patiently until the pipes started playing.  Then he would puff out his chest, raise his head, and proudly strut down the avenue as long as the pipes played.

Jr. was my first "second" dog.  My partner at the time, Forrest Moon, had brought his dog with him into the family.  Crescent Moon was a pure-bred Chinese Crested, but one of the throwbacks that is fully furred.  I wanted another MinPin, but Forrest was afraid of Doberman and wanted nothing that even remotely appeared to be one.  When we learned that our friend Tom Freeman had a pregnant bitch, we went to visit after the pups were born.  Mother, Little Bit, was a miniature shepherd, and the supposed father was a MinPin.  There were five puppies in the litter: two black and rust MinPins, two tiny Shepherds, and one, the runt of the litter, that was all white expect for one red ear and a red ring around the opposite eye.  We immediately said "That's our dog!"  and when Tom called us to say "Your dog's ready," we raced to St. Ignatius and brought him home.  We named him Jr. and allowed as that name could be read as either "Junior" or "J.R."  My life with Jr. lasted longer than the relationship with Forrest, but Jr. developed cancer, and on a visit to California, I took him to my mother's vet who administered the shot that put him to sleep in my arms.  It was almost more than I could bear.

Baby Jr. on my shoulder
Late 1980s, Missoula, Montana

On the way home from that trip, I stopped at a rest area just north of Grants Pass, Oregon, and before I could get out of my truck, an Asian woman approached.  She was driving a large motor home and was having mechanical problems.  For some reason she figured I would know what was wrong, poor mistaken fool that she was, but I went over and climbed under her rig where I saw a hose just dangling.  I suggested that she return to Grants Pass rather than try to climb the mountains to Roseburg, and as I straightened up, I noticed several ribbons hanging from her mirror.  Turns out she was in the business of raising and showing Miniature Pinschers.  We had a brief conversation about the breed, and when she learned that I had just had Jr. put down, she asked if I wanted another dog.  Long story short, when she got to Missoula for the Five Valleys Kennel Club Show in June, I picked up Speedy, a beautiful stag red MinPin who became the new love of my life.

From that time till now there has not been a moment without dogs in my life.  While living with Speedy, I learned of a dog over in Wallace, Idaho, that needed a new home.  My partner Gary and I took Speedy with us and went to visit Faylene.  Speedy and Faylene played well together, and in another couple of weeks, there were four of us at home.  Then we got a call from our friend Lance who worked with the Bitterroot Humane Society in Hamilton, Montana.  They had a MinPin who needed a new home.  Gary and I drove to Hamilton, and adopted Rocky.  Both Faylene and Rocky developed diabetes, and needed to have insulin shots twice a day.  As we began preparations for a vacation trip to Puerto Vallarta, we needed to find someone who could administer those shots.  Finding someone to house/dog sit is one thing.  Finding someone willing to shoot your dog twice a day is another matter entirely.

A visit to the Missoula Humane Society got us a connection to someone who could do just that, and by the way, we have a MinPin here, would you like to see her?  One thing led to another, and that's when Minnie entered our lives.  We now had four Miniature Pinschers in the house, two with diabetes, and one the tiniest thing we'd ever seen (well, apart from Jr. when we first got him).  Minnie is still with us, the oldest of the now five MinPins who share our lives.  I fear that her time is almost over as she's at least fifteen years old now and is getting a bit feeble.  But spunk?  Boy does she have spunk.  Unfortunately, she does not really have any bladder control these days, so she has been banished from our bed.  (The other four still sleep with us.)  This morning, I took her into the shower with me and gave her a bath which she desperately needed.  While Kevin dried her off, I took my shower trying to get all the short black hairs off my body.  She smells better now, but it won't last.  Tonight, while she's asleep, she'll undoubtedly pee all over herself again.  She has trouble standing up, but she'll run across the room to be with me, and once outside, she runs all over the yard.  Did I say she has spunk?

Minnie after her bath
Plains, Montana
January 15th, 2015

The remainder of our pack?  There's Gypsy who came to live with me while I was in California looking after Mother during the last year of her life.  My profile picture for this blog shows me holding Gypsy on a southern Oregon beach.  I'll never forget the first time I put Gypsy on Mother's bed in the nursing home.  Momma looked at this small black dog and said, "Is that my Dinah?"  "No, Momma.  She just looks like Dinah."  Gypsy spent a lot of time at the nursing home with me.  Major came to us when a friend found him running loose in an industrial area.  We placed an ad, but no one responded, so he became our boy.  Harley was an owner turn in at the Bitterroot Humane Society.  He's a love, but he has moments when he turns into Cujo in seconds.  I'm sure that's why he was turned in, but my question is, what did that family do to make him so aggressive?  And finally, there's Rocky II, whom we saw at PetSmart in Missoula when we were going in to buy another 40 pound bag of Eukanuba.  Life Savers Animal Rescue from Polson was there with various dogs available for adoption.  What can I say, Rocky left with us.

I consider all of our dogs "rescues."  None came from a pet store or breeder.  If you have it in your heart to add an animal to your life, you can't beat taking a shelter animal into your home.  It will enrich your days more than anything you can imagine.